Who will benefit from the NTTSW project?
The area covers about 22 square miles and is located within one of the 22 watersheds in the greater Harris County (HCFCD). It includes 11 public parks totaling more than 400 acres (BOMD, 2013). It is bordered by Beechnut Street, Stella Link, Main Street, and Beltway 8 at 59 Freeway. The region has one major bayou (Brays), two smaller bayous (Keegan’s and Willow Waterhole), and multiple diversion channels and creeks that connect to the bayous.
The region at this date includes parts of Houston City Council Districts C, J and K, and Harris County Precincts 1 and 3. Part of the region is located within the Brays Oaks Management District (BOMD), one of 28 management districts in the Greater Houston Area. BOMD has four tasks: economic development, public safety, mobility and transportation, and environmental and urban design. This latter responsibility includes, “improving the appearance and the image of the area, private and public infrastructure needs, and open spaces such as parks and trails development.” (BOMD, 2013).
The area has over 46 acres of wetlands and approximately 10 acres of prairie and unused green space along utility easements (FSW.gov). According to the Brays Oaks Master Park Plan (2013), there are many ideal locations for trail development and park acquisition. These includes creating trails along tributaries and diversion channels that abut neighborhoods providing residents ready access to Brays, Keegan’s, and Willow Waterhole Bayous. On the westside of the project area is the Ruffino Hills Site, which could provide 135 acres of usable green space. This property was recently added into the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) 20, a potential strategic partner for trail and park development at the Ruffino Hills Site.
The project area includes parts of four Super Neighborhoods (#30, #31, #36, #37) and five zip code areas (77025, 77035, 77096, 77071, and 77035). There are over 40 neighborhoods with single-family homes (SWHouston2000; Statistical Atlas) and over 90 multi-family apartment complexes totaling more than 15,000 units (BOMD). The population for this area was estimated to be approximately 120,000 in 2012. This particular area has a population density that is more than twice of that in the City of Houston. For example, Houston is estimated to have a population density of 3,249 people per square mile. The Brays Oaks Super Neighborhood’s population density is 7,493 while Braeburn Super Neighborhood has the lowest density for the project area of 4,204 people per square mile (Houstontx.gov). This gives us an indication of the density and the impact the trail project will have in the proposed area.
The four (4) Super Neighborhoods differ somewhat demographically. In 2010, the median household income in the region ranged from a high in the Meyerland area at $67,567 and a low of $33,237 in the Braeburn Super Neighborhood. Overall, the racial and ethnic composition consists of 27% white, 31% non-Hispanic black, 34% Hispanic, 7% non-Hispanic Asian, and about 1% other groups (Houstontx.gov). At least 25% of area residents are aged 17 and under, 63% are 18-64, and about 12% are older than 65 years of age (Houstontx.gov). Interestingly, the west side of the project area (zipcode 77031) has a median age of 30.9 years, two years younger than the overall Houston area and almost six years younger than the median for the United States as a whole. The American Community Survey (2014) reports poverty rates ranging from a low of 10.2% to a high of 30% in the project area.
BOMD undertook an extensive needs assessment and analysis of parks in the area. The resulting Master Parks Plan (2013) highlighted the need for walking, hiking, and biking trails that connect neighborhoods to the bayou systems with an ultimate destination of Willow Waterhole Greenway on the region’s east side via the Kinder Shell Pipeline Easement (BOMD, 2013). Willow Waterhole Greenway is being developed by Harris Country Flood Control. This may reduce the risk of flooding, and it gives our area a 291 acres park with six beautiful lakes, thousands of trees and a natural prairie. Over 190 different species of birds have visited the park. In a few years, the Levitt Pavilion will host over 50 free professional concerts overlooking one of the lakes. It is one of the best areas for cross country races in the area. We fully expect it to become a signature City park alongside Hermann and Memorial parks ( Willow Waterhole Greenway).
Many of the current trails are grassy footpaths that are not accessible to various populations such as the elderly, people with disabilities, and young families with strollers or bicycles. Creating safe access will enhance recreational and transportation alternatives for thousands of residents and others in the area.